Numbers in Sunday leagues usually fall into three camps: 1-11, whatever is in the kit bag or whatever Fat Barry can fit into.
However, my team – London Titans, one of the capital’s gay teams – are among those that go another way: we embrace squad numbers, which can cause all sorts of issues for those of us who have issues with bizarre numbers being worn. The Titans have used squad numbers for most of their existence, but because it would be mean-spirited to take lower numbers off players who have been around ages but don’t play so much any more, some are rarely seen these days – number 2 is effectively semi-retired, for one.
Positions in Sunday league are somewhat more fluid than in the pro game, which provides me with further angst. Number 5 plays in midfield more than defence, number 7 pops up all over the pitch, number 10 is primarily a centre-half these days and a full-back has snaffled number 11.
Then we have our number 8 – he was a keeper when he was younger, before appearing more as a midfield schemer – no problem there. Trouble is, he’s started playing in goal more these days… and has had 8 plastered on the back of a keeper shirt. As far as I’m aware, he doesn’t have a Jan Jongbloed fetish.
As a result of the good numbers being taken, you end up with cumulative totals well into triple figures. 31 was the best number available when I joined (I always wear 3, so it’ll do), while we’ve got a number 42, 47 and 90 playing for us regularly. Players without their own shirts have to wear the lowest available generic shirts – most of which are in the 60s.
In hindsight, we should have done what Nottingham’s gay team did – they allowed squad numbers from 19 upwards, so at least 1-18 will always stay available. Can squad numbers work in Sunday league, or will folks like us always be left frustrated?